Giving the old girl a second life
Britannia Beaver’s refit at Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam
“The hopper bottom won’t need to be replaced again – that was a once in a lifetime job,” begins Britannia Aggregates Marine Superintendent Chris Andrew. “This was a big job – using about 26 tonnes of steel.” He is talking about the refit of the Britannia Beaver at Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam. The vessel is a 100-metre trailing suction hopper dredger whose task is to keep her owners (a 50/50 Joint Venture between the Brett Group and Tarmac UK) supplied with marine aggregates.
Mr Andrew knows the vessel inside-out: after all, he’s been in his present job for coming on 15 years. “The old girl is 25 years old now, but she’s in good condition considering the aggressiveness of the aggregates that she works with. The wear and tear is considerable – for example we have to change the dredge impellers every 6 months or so and the casings every 12.” With more than four decades of marine engineering experience under his belt, Mr Andrew is certainly well qualified on the subject.
This major refit wasn’t the Beaver’s first visit to Amsterdam. “We have used the yard a lot in the past,” he says. “A few years back we replaced the sides of the hopper there and saw that the bottom would soon need replacing as it was so worn out from the wear of the buckets.”
As a one-vessel company, two crucial factors are important to Britannia Aggregates. Firstly, maintenance is paramount and secondly, they cannot be hanging around too long in the drydock while the maintenance is carried out.
The nature of the business
“It’s very important that the work is done on schedule,” Mr Andrew continues. “And Damen’s yard has a reputation for completing the job on time as well as for good steelwork. We did have some unforeseen jobs pop up as they normally do, but that’s the nature of the business – you never know what you’re going to find when you take things to pieces. We had a problem with the rudder stock – the rudder shaft needed machining. However, the on-site facilities at the yard are very capable of handling these bigger engineering jobs.”
For Mr Andrew, the fact that Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam has a consistent team also plays a significant role. “The project managers have been there for a long time – this is important to us,” he explains. “They know how we work and they know what we are after – taking on the work very well. This takes a lot of pressure off us. You go to them with a problem and they say, ‘yes, we can manage that’. They can solve almost any problem.”
This cooperative relationship between Britannia Aggregates and Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam has resulted in a fruitful lifetime extension of one the oldest members of the UK’s dredging fleet – something that the ‘old girl’ can now look forward to.
“Being a one-ship company determines our maintenance policy,” explains Britannia Aggregates General Manager Nigel Reeve. “Our strategy is to keep the Britannia Beaver in tip top condition for as long as possible to maximise our dredging output of 1.2 million tonnes per year. We want to try to keep her running for another 15 years. That considered, Damen has always been at the forefront of our minds. They are very good at the things we are looking for: quality and on-time delivery.”